Goatwater is a column which explores the mystifying, joyous and liberating concept of Carnival through the New York born and raised, Caribbean-American perspective of poet and artist Tiffany Osedra Miller.
Some of the Sons of God
It is 5:00 in the evening when I bear witness to the preacher’s son banging on the locked door of a Dive Bar in Mount Vernon, New York. Despite this indiscretion, and the years that have passed, he looks good – tall, wiry frame, high yellow skin, clear green eyes. He maintains a pleasant disposition even though the locked door to the Dive Bar had to frustrate him. His father is also dead like mine. He is also now bald like my father was. Is he married? Did his marriage end in divorce? Does he, a choir boy, still sing Ave Maria? Is his mother still alive? I remember him sitting with his brother and sister in the back of his father’s church, their faces full of resentment, mischief and forced piety. Am I sitting in a car that my father is driving, while staring through the window at the preacher’s son, banging on the locked door of a Dive Bar? My father is far from dead in this reverie and because my father knew the preacher’s son, too, I would have said, hey daddy, look at what the preacher’s son is up to! Am I judging him because I didn’t know what I could’ve done, when we were children, he a few years older, to get him to want me? Before you judge me: he is a man before he is the son of a preacher, and therefore not the Son of God, and ain’t I a woman?
You wake up behind the wheel of a car driving around a cliff in near darkness. You took a detour after seeing a play about West Indian Shamans and Dahomey Dream Preachers at the Community Theater. You aren’t licensed to drive, however and don’t really know how. There is a man covered in shadows, sitting in the back seat. You do not recognize him.
I run up the same steep staircase, years before Joaquin Phoenix in the film, The Joker, would dance down them. I am on my way to see a man – perhaps another Joker – the son of a family friend from church. He had sent me a picture of himself wearing only red speedos and posing with his legs spread wide open on top of a car’s hood on a hill overlooking a beach. He works at the airport and over the telephone promised me free airplane tickets out of the Bronx past the Edenwald Projects, where a mother threw her children off of the roof of her building and then jumped down to join them, past where I would later be mugged, past the public library where my cousin and I read books and giggled in the aisles and watched brutal pet shows in the Activity Room where men would feed large, live, white rats to boa constrictors, past the forbidden Seton Falls Park, Cardinal Spellman High School’s track and football field, the nursing home where my father received physical therapy, past the Baychester Avenue train station and just over the horizon. I am wearing biking shorts and a waist length, floral, tribal top. When I arrive at the man’s apartment, he embraces me and tells me that he loves me and wants us to travel together. I am a teenager. He is not.
There is a woman beside you who looks just like the man sitting behind you. She is dressed in black and wears a veil. In her lap is a Bible and on top of the Bible is the scale model of a church. You decide not to say anything and just drive, carefully, around the cliffs which you are surprised you can do since the last time you drove anything was the Bumper Cars at Playland and you only had a learner’s permit which you let expire. Yet, you would go joy riding with a friend who owned a BMW and drive around affluent parts of Westchester County, following people to their Post-colonial Palaces and Tudor Homes, making up stories about their lives.
I meet a Country Preacher about 5 hours North of New Orleans. He is a big, ostentatious man, who confesses that he doesn’t like me because my skin is lighter than his. He calls me the Bright Girl. This isn’t a comment on my intelligence. I don’t care for him either because he pretends to ignore me. Once, while he is driving and I am on a walk, he attempts to run me off of the road, calling me, road-kill. He appears to hate every single one of my guts until he calls my room, late at night, pleading with me to come over. He’d pick me up, he says, and take me like a dirty debutante to his bed, located in a trailer park overrun by possum and raccoons. You don’t even need to get dressed, Road-Kill, just put on a robe. I decline his invitation. At church, he preaches on the Ferals and Fitfalls of Pornification.
One of your first loves was Richard Chamberlain as Father de Bricassart in the made-for TV- miniseries, “The Thorn Birds.” In it, a very young Rachel Ward and an aging Barbara Stanwyck fall in love with the Priest. You are Rachel Ward, in love your whole life with a man you can’t have because he is devoted to God. You are Barbara Stanwyck, hair completely white and in love with the same man. Who could compete with God? So strong and destructive your desires, you wish you could win this Holy Man over, and you do, sort of. When you are Rachel Ward, he falls from grace every time he sees you. This was the earthly, supernatural power you had, to acquire a weak, semi-precious piece of what you desired in this world. Unlike God, you possessed sweet, tender flesh that De Bricassart could feel in his hands. You had breasts, a fine nose and a striking waistline. How terrible this was for you. How wonderful this was for you.